Email from my Brother : Beat the Straw!

The next mail from my brother, they are coming thick and fast! Last one was all about wood, this is now paddocks and the rats are back!

Hi Fay,

How’s it going?  This week we’ve finished the fences at our place.  I say “we” but of course the fencing guy finished doing the fences and we transferred the money over for his troubles.  Well Juliette transferred the money over, I just made a pot of tea and laid out the chocolate digestives on a plate while she did it.  Sometimes you’ve got to get your hands dirty to get the job done.

So the fences are all done that is all except the fence that will eventually block off the main house from the road because we’re getting the new, smaller front paddock turned into a car parking area.  From that point on it will be known as the “car park” paddock.  Likewise my archery range paddock will be known as the “archery paddock”.  The vegetable paddock will be known as the “vegetable paddock”, the largest paddock will be called the “big paddock” and the paddock between the vegetable paddock and the big paddock will be called the “middle paddock”.  Finally the paddock in front of the barn will be known as the “barn paddock” (because it’s in front of the barn).  Juliette disagrees with my naming system because she’s Mary-Mary-Quite-Contrary and wants to call the paddocks A,B,C etc.  I suggest my naming method is better as it’s clear to whom ever needs to know which paddock is which (“Which is the “car park” paddock?”, “The one with the freakin’ cars parked in it!”) but Juliette insists on naming the paddocks after prison blocks or like we’re Cold War spies and must not let on to the enemy where we’re grazing the alpacas this week.

So now the only problem we’ve got is that we now need lights out on the car park paddock (henceforth known as paddock F) for when it gets dark.  We’re in the country so when it gets really dark (i.e. when there’s no full moon and the clouds block out the stars) it’s really dark.  I had looked into getting 1000 watt mains driven 240 volt floodlights but decided instead that two LED lights run off three double-A batteries was the best.  You know, because I don’t have to faff about running electricity out to a field.  You just nail the LED jobby up on a tree and let it do it’s battery driven thing.  Easy!

I did of course test these battery flood lights by first of all buying them, popping three AA batteries in them and then waiting for night to fall before going outside and waving my arms in front of it.  They switch on when they detected a human presence and the box says the batteries last nine months based on three light ups per night.  So I waved by arms and hey presto, two beams of light came out of these two little LEDs and lit up the garden.  Okay so you’re not going to be looking for any needles with the amount of light they give out but they do the job.  They even powered down by dimming the light when you were out of detection range rather than just switching off.  Classy.  So I’ve got these LED lights in my hand right….

You may remember I caught a rat in the loft a few weeks ago.  I took that trap and put it in the garage because there were quite a few rat droppings in the garage and wondered if maybe Tom the Cat had decided to lose a bit of weight and cut down on the rat meals.  I’d left the rat trap on one of two desks we’ve got stored in the garage ready to go once Eva and Sam are old enough to have their own rooms and need desks.  Obviously I was planning on flicking the rat shit off them before moving the desks over to the house but for now all they sport are a petrol can, some tins of paint and one rat trap primed with peanut butter.

So I go into the garage and because I’m carrying the LED flood lights I use that to illuminate the interior.  That’s cool because in such a small space there’s more light given off from the battery operated flood light than the two energy efficient light bulbs that have their light switch currently blocked off from easy access on the other side of the garage because ome idiot parked two desks in front of the light switch.  One day I’ll move that light switch to somewhere more convenient, but for now I can see from the LED lights that the rat trap is no longer on the desk.  It’s on the floor.  Or more accurately it’s on the pile of hay on the floor.  We keep bales of hay in the garage to do the Guinea Pig bedding and feed the alpacas.  Currently we’ve got two bales opened up and loose and so nestled in that hay was one end of the rat trap poking up.
See previous post called Email from my brother : Stab! Stab! Stab!

I think I mentioned last time that I had tied a piece of string to one end of the rat trap and as that end was poking free I stepped as close as I felt comfortable to grab the string (burying my legs up to my ankles in hay as I did so).  I could then pull the string up to see the trap and ascertain whether I had got a rat.  This I did successfully and saw that there was no rat and all was good.  Not really.  I grabbed the string and found that the string pulled back because I did in fact have a rat in the trap and that little f*cker was still very much alive.

Earlier in the week I was feeding the Guinea Pigs with their five kilogram bag of Guinea Pig and Rabbit Food.  I grab the bag, carry it out to their cage, get the bowl and tip some of the muesli like contents out.  I was a bit surprised this time when the little nuts and stuff stopped flowing out of the corner I’d cut into the plastic bag because of a blockage.  After a couple of shakes the cause of the blockage revealed itself to be a field mouse because it's fury arse dropped into the bowl.

The mouse looked a bit shocked.

I was a bit shocked.

I wondered if I had picked up a bag of Comedy Cat Food by mistake and almost turned the bag around to re-read the label.  The field mouse judged that it was time to go all Bourne Identity on me and he back flipped out of the bowl and ran off into the long grass never to be seen again.

However that moment made me realise what the big black momma from the Tom and Jerry cartoons felt when she saw Jerry Mouse strut his stuff in front of her.  It was a kind of a primeval fear of something small and bitey.  That however was a cute field mouse and now I had a plague carrying death rat the size of a Chihuahua to deal with.

So I didn’t feel happy grabbing the string with my bare hands because that felt a bit intimate now.  I looked around and played Goldilocks and Three Gardening Implements.  There was a pair of secateurs (too short), a pair of gardening shears (too long) and a pair of long handle secateurs (just right).  I mean that yes, the long handled secateurs had what is essentially a pair of scissors on the end but the thing was the handles were looooooooong.  Long was good.  I reckoned that if I gripped the string in between the jaws of the blades gently enough I could lift the string, pull up the trap out of the straw and see the rat long enough to figure what my next move was.  So I did.  The long handled secateurs worked a treat.  I lifted the string, pulled up the trap and there, its little rat claws struggling against the plastic jaws the held it’s head, was a really, really pissed off rat.  Better not let this one out!

It was at this point that the LED security lights I’d left propped up on the desk to illuminate the garage decided that there were no humans in need of its services.  Of course not, the little Fresnel Lense and sensor was trained on a dangling shit house rat.  So the LED lights began to fade.  I gave a little involuntary move of fear and the blades of the long handled secateurs closed together.  The sound of the “snip” as the string cut was shortly followed by the “thud” of the trap landing back into the hay.  So I’m in the dark, ankle deep in hay, with a pissed of rat that now may be out of it’s trap and looking to seek revenge.

"Think?  What am I wearing on my feet?  What am I wearing on my GODAMN FEET!  Steel toe capped boots?  No, I am not.  Wellington boots? No.  I’m wearing Crocks again aren’t I?  

Yes I am.

How thick are my socks?  Big woollen winter socks?  No.  Marks and Spencer ankle socks that Juliette’s parents brought me back from their last trip to the UK?  Yes.

How much protection would those socks give me from a rat bite?  Give me a Dungeons and Dragons Armour Class Rating now brain!  
Chainmail class?  No. 
Leather class?  No.

I reckon these socks would give me slightly more protection than not wearing anything at all.  At best I may delay the pain of the teeth biting me for a fraction of a second.

Time to wave my arms around like a loon to get that LED security light working again.  It’s not coming on!  It’s not coming on! 

The light has fallen off the f*cking the desk!  It’s in with the rat!  Oh my God where the f*ck is the rat!  Oh my God where the f*ck is the light!  I’m going to cave it’s rat skull in with these long handled secateurs before it gets me, I am!  Beat the straw!  Beat the straw!"

So I’m beating the straw in the dark, basically doing the Dance of the Morons when the LED lights come back up and I can see that the trap successfully held on to the killer rat and I was panicking for no reason.

Of course I then stepped in and cut the rats head off with the long handled secateurs, stepped from the garage and never gave the place a backward glance.  Of course that never happened either.  I left the rat to a long slow death by rat trap choking.  I came back in the morning and found the rat well and truly dead but missing it’s back legs.  Maybe Tom the Cat had weakened and broken his diet?  Or maybe there’s a bigger rat in there?  I reckon the bigger rat.  So, I’ve got to convince Juliette that I really need to splash out on some medieval plate armour for my feet ...

Love Mark,
Good luck with that one! And as always

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